Friday, 19 July 2013

All the Way by Daniel Bird

Read by Ann-Marie Taaffe

It was the third date. The second Chardonnay. The first time Kevin knew he would get Katie between the sheets. He had guided the conversation through a series of topics with a strong connection to her flat: photos, home movies, interior design and cleanliness. He was pleased with his strategy. It was a sure thing now and he was excited. He thought that he might burst. When she left to powder her nose he quickly settled the bill without even glancing at the total. His eyes were fixed on the restaurant door.

When she returned she stroked his wrist, forcing his voice to come out like a prepubescent squeak,

“Coffee?” he asked, swallowing, “I know a place that does - ”

She held her finger to his lips.

“I have great coffee at my place.”

He placed his jacket over her bare shoulders and her arm looped his. He thought he was charming but he was getting nervous. His sentences took forever to form, as if he needed to search for each word in a massive dictionary with tiny hands. Luckily Katie thought he was hilarious and said that if she laughed any more she would wet herself right there on the street.

He started kissing her after she showed him her Stanley Kubrick box set. He marched her backwards to the bedroom. He told her she was beautiful. She told him she loved his shoes and socks combination. He rolled her onto the bed and feverishly began removing her clothes, garment by garment, punctuated by quick kisses. Kevin’s luck came to a swift halt when her underwear did not slide off as it was meant to. The fabric was blocked by her stubborn buttocks that stayed firmly on the mattress. He tried again with a playful giggle but the buttocks did not rise.

His blood ran cold. She smiled, brought her hand around his neck and leaned in for a whisper.

“Let’s take things slowly,” she said.

She patted the space next to her and he lay down like a coiled spring of tension.

“I like you, Kevin, you’re sweet and romantic but - ” she paused, debating whether or not to deliver her next caveat.

“You just want to be friends?” he asked fearfully.

Katie pinched his arm. She explained unashamedly that this would actually be her first time. She wanted that first time to be special and had a strong feeling that Kevin was the right man for this special moment when it came but she wasn’t sure when it would come.

“Is this erm, a religious thing?” he asked, as coolly as he could.

“No, absolutely not!” she laughed, “I’m just romantic, I suppose, and I wouldn’t want to think that you just wanted me for, you know, that.”

“No. Absolutely not,” declared Kevin. “I really like you.”

He meant it. She drifted off to sleep on his breathless chest. Kevin stared, wide-eyed at the ceiling; how could he make it special?

He brought her flowers to her office the next week, cooked her salmon after work every Friday and when one day she twisted her ankle he appeared with ice as if he had known it would happen. They hugged in front of the TV as Kevin stroked her inner thigh to no effect. He was getting more frustrated. He asked her how he could make it special and she said it was a feeling and when it came she would know.

“I have an idea!” jumped up Kevin one day.

He fetched the globe she had on the bookshelf and they spun it until it was a blur.

“Where ever you stop it, we go!” he cried.

Her finger stopped it on China. They flew there for Easter. A traditional hotel with a view of the Great Wall. After a day on wooden rafts and eating soft rice from porcelain bowls they dressed in local silken attire and returned to the bed. The gorgeous blood red paper hanging around the room wafted as they jumped about making Kung Fu movie sounds. Kevin tried a Shaolin underwear removal grab, but her red silk did not slip off.

Next month he asked Katie to throw a dart at a map. It landed on Antarctica.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Absolutely, romance is about being adventurous,” he declared.

They wrapped up warm and stayed in a high-tech tent. They saw icebergs collapse and the sun set over a field of white powder. He lit five gas stoves and carefully peeled off her dozen thirty-Tog layers but as Kevin reached lower she held his shivering wrist and shook her head.

They typed a random postal code into GoogleMaps. That summer they were in Manila walking through exotic streets but soon they were mugged by a ratty man at gunpoint. Kevin threw himself at the thug, knocking the gun to the ground and breaking his own arm. A knife was pulled and a long thin cut drawn across Kevin’s face. They ran away and after some plastic surgery he lay on the hospital bed. Katie looked at him sympathetically and clambered in, removing his sling. Kevin breathed a sigh of relief, it was finally happening. She put her head on his chest.

“These beds are so good for snuggling,” she said.

Kevin and Katie’s Air Mile accounts grew, much to the envy of their friends. They thought he was the most romantic boyfriend a girl could have. The cupboard doors, bookshelves and tables were covered in photos, trinkets and souvenirs from wherever Kevin took her. Yet still the underwear stayed firmly in place and Katie’s buttocks did not rise.

In December Kevin opened Katie’s door with his own key and found she wasn’t there. He’d been working late at a supermarket to pay off his credit card. A note was on the side. Katie had headed out with some friends and she’d see him in the morning. He sulked for a minute in his nylon uniform. She didn’t answer her phone so he went to fetch some cold wine. The door was covered in fridge magnets: Niagra Falls, the Eiffel Tower, a German Beer Festival, the ruins of Angkor Wat. The Northern Lights had looked better in reality but he was happy with the grainy photo he had taken.

He awoke on the sofa to Katie in tears.

“What’s wrong my pumpkin?” he asked urgently.

She shook her head.

“Something happened last night,” she said. “I was out with the girls and Eddie showed up and we - ”

Kevin held a finger to her lips.

“Eddie?” he asked, “that guy at your office?”

She nodded and her wet cheeks flushed. Kevin had heard enough.

“I think I’ll leave now,” he said.

Katie protested but he was too angry.

“These all should belong to me,” he shouted, tearing the photos off the doors in a rage.

He thrust on his pointy hat from Vietnam, picked up his panpipes from Peru and stuffed the Egyptian goatskin rucksack with key rings and snow globes.

“It didn’t mean anything!” she cried, “I’m so sorry, we can work this out!”

But Kevin had already stepped outside. He gave her a final kiss, brought his hand around her neck and whispered in her ear,

“It was supposed to be my first time too.”

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